Thursday, November 15, 2012

wish you were here to eat 12 cent donuts with me

my last post was a struggle, and thematically false: hardly postcards at all, rather the cliff note version of my journal. I realized this when i glanced at Cindy writing actual postcards that were, give or take, 30 words. Quick, redolent of excitement, capturing a moment or a feeling, a sight, in, give or take, 30 words (that particular moment/feeling/sight was the 12 cent--thats right--donut she ate that was shaped, fried, and dipped in sugar just for her while i waited and took pictures with a group of local boys who were as fascinated with my camera phone as Cind was with the donut). I tend to use a few more than thirty, including those wasted to say that i wish i had smaller writing so that i could share more (why even write that then? i mean really, think of the space value of that silly sentence!). Now however, it is not about sending postcards. It is about getting terribly, terribly wordy....

I need to talk in detail about two things:
1) Foods
2) Drinks

Yes: "Foods" with an 's' because there has been so much eating that if i didn't pluralize food it would all seem one great, 29 day long meal. This whole trip could very well be just that, one great meal, when really, each taste has been such a surprise that it needs to be "foods," as in many different food.

Lets start with breakfast. It sucks in Morocco. It is boring white bread with uber sweet marmalade, margarine-ish spread, instant coffee, and, if you are lucky hard boiled until grey ringed eggs. The pleasant sub: street breads. Take that same boring white bread dough and knead it with butter, pull it flat and fry it on a flat top and you have mssmen--hot, fatty, pleasantly a thin, deep fried waffle...sort of. Somewhat savoury kept plain, they also do well spread with "honey" (pure honey is hard to come by in morocco, and the street stalls carry vats of the less expensive honey and simple syrup blend--stand but oh too true.). Either way they've got nothing on beghir, Moroccos version of a crepe. The batter, though of this dough is left to ferment and bubble, then poured in a thin layer into a pan, and slowly allowed to cook through, without flipping. It is spongy and light, a bit dextrous, a bit tangy, lovely as a mock-honey vessel and a glass of orange juice (something they cannot fake here).  And when you are craving the wholesomeness of oatmeal, there is this barley, i want to say 'pancake' but that is just not quite right,...thing: at once chewily aldente and bound by its own cooked out starchiness. Best enjoyed with a glass of "hot sweet almond milk" from Cafe Clock (we--as in you and me readers, will revisit that place in another post), it was what i would want if i was home in the winter as much as i needed it in rainy Fez. I cut up a melon once--never mind it was the sweetest and most generously fleshy melon disguised as a wrinkled, gourd-esque squash like bit of business, i have ever tasted. So by "once" i meant everyday (4) that we had left in Morocco.

Now in Spain our "breakfast incl" fare was first, in Rhonda, toast (actual toasted bread, instead of just stale day olds), homemade jams, juice, cheese, cured meats, and (thank your God of choice) fruit! And sweet, hot, thick, espresso. Vats of it. Small vats. Espresso sized vats. But vats none the less. I guess it just felt like vats after so many shitty sips of coffee. Then in Malaga, our first fend-for-yourself a.m. feast was a baguette from a panaderia, more cheese, fruit, dried figs, honey, and ripe tomatoes from the market, plus more fine espresso. Eaten on the steps of a theatre close to our riad, in the warm sun, the feast was capped off with two clementines each from a man enroute with his own market basket into his restaurant. What more could you ask for really, than to be given oranges at breakfast time from a man who lived in the country you came to visit just to eat its oranges? Life, and breakfast in Spain, was, is special. The next day was just local goats milk yoghurt and more oranges in order to save room for a paella lunch...we'll talk about that bitter and fruitless search later...Most recently, our hostel in Cadiz offered...wait for it...PANCAKE breakfasts!! And though i could certainly go for four mornings in a row of that business, there were just too many backpackers (and staff) and not enough pancakes so Cindy and i opted most mornings for pastries around town. Her breakfast of choice: glazed doughnut (not 12 cents here, though); mine: pretzled almond palmier. And espresso.

We haven't just had pastries for breakfast. But we have had them every day. And stopped in every pastry store we walk by. Which means more than one pastry every day. The first sweet i had in Marrakesh still sticks with me: the tiny sesame button, so sweet and lemony and fragrant; perfect in size and texture, still, one month later, yet to be surpassed. From the same pastry shop came a lemon tart in my description of such, flawless. A thin, cookie like but delicate crust, and thick, dense, zesty, curd, more italian than french, it was a lovely so long to Marrakesh. Then there were all of the lemony almondy, icing sugary ones, and the flat, surprisingly rose water flavoured beauties, and those triangles that i thought would be all baklava style pistachio filled, but turned out to be dry crummy chocolate (one out of who knows how many, not so bad). Oh my, there were so many little cookies in Morocco, i am having trouble remembering now...but i certainly remember a cake. A piece of cake, really, and yes, it was breakfast. Sunday morning in a road of utter splendour, it was Cindys cake. Right there on the buffet. i cannot believe i have not written about this cake until now in this post. I mean, it was our cake, all olive oily and crumbly with polenta, slightly orangey, such a treat. I thought Cindy might cry, but she's sensitive like that. and really loves pastry. Hence all the stops in the stores... Anyways, gazelle horns. Thats right, the ubiquitous, thinly wrapped, often orange blossom water laced almond paste. They are every where, sometimes dusted with icing sugar, or, like the ones in Tangier, decoratively imprinted with triangled designs. But the best we tasted was homemade by the nanny of a woman we met on the train from Fez to Tangier; the dough was so flaky and it was not overly floral, but sumptuous and soft, just a treat. The cookie fest ends here in Spain with unexpectedly crumbly cinnamon rounds--three times as thick as but only one 16th as buttery as the shortbread they looked to be-- and moves onto more serious pastries with the likes of the breakfasty palmiers, almondy cakelets filled with some sorta "vegetable/plant/fruit" like filling the texture of membrillo but certainly not the flavour, a dense and lemony, icing sugar laden torta, orange flavoured fruit jellies, and a lemon tart that doesn't hold a candle to the one in marrakech, though wins memory points for its being laden nuts of the wal, hazel, pine and almond sorts. I have already picked out my pastry for tomorrows breakfast. I just have to find one for dessert.

I also have to find time tomorrow to tell you about the savoury part of this "foods" topic. And a bit (no, probably a lot) about the "drinks." But for now it has been enough words. For now it is sweet, sesame button dreams.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

wish you were here

Most of you i am sure, have picked up a postcard while travelling, the image--cheesy, iconic, captivating, or otherwise--making you think of someone at home with whom you want to share that exact moment with. You take said card to a little table outside a little cafe and order a little coffee and start to write, only to find that the little space on the back of that card is just too little (so is the coffee, for that matter...). There is just too much to say, and where to begin is as much an issue as where to end once you have started. Soon you may have filled in six postcards (and downed four little coffees and a too little pastry), and still do not feel as if you have recreated any of it. That is what i am prepared to do right now: send you all a right stack of postcards knowing i cannot possibly do justice the wonders that Cindy and i have seen, created, been a part of in the thirteen days we have spent so far rocking' Morocco:

(ps, most of this is directly from my journal, at points in time when my head was a little more clear)

DAY1 (and 2, actually, as they really blended together into one 39 hour day of airports):
     Im sitting in the plane waiting to take off from Vancouver to London. It just started to rain. See you later Canada...
     Im achy from sitting for so long like some crumpled up receipt for too expensive airport water, then standing around the Gatwick airport in London with my thirty pound bag of things you would never think could weigh thirty pounds until i could check my bags and get on another plane to sit another five hours to get to Marrakech. Yet here i am sitting in a bar while i wait for said plane. Not just any bar, Jamie Oliver's bar "Union Jack's" where they have sparkling wine. Now, Morocco seems only, not still, five hours away.
     Morocco is no longer five hours away. It is right now. And it smells like cumin.

DAY 3:
     Sigh. The Medina of Marrakech is in so many ways like a mall: vendors selling much of the same thing for the same price; it feels contained, not lifeless but substance-less. I wonder at the honesty, the artistry. The forceful haggling can be too much, the "magical" facade to sheer.
      Then again, it is a wonder to turn a corner, and come to an open-air square encircled by pyramids of glistening olives, jars of the tiniest preserved lemons, the smell briny, and, admittedly, refreshing. Down another alley is a quiet cafe where the lights and furniture are made of recycled tins and sacks serving espresso with crema so thick you could spread it on the hot mssmen (doughy, oily, pancake like street bread) we find down a very not-quiet street. Wandering further we are pursued by a French-speaking gang of young boys, clearly saying things they might not dare say if they thought we understood them, only to be chased away, laughing, by a man who gave us a knowing smile. Other cat calls include "Japon! Arogotto!" a discrimination against Cindys, whose parents are Chinese Canadian. I lost it a bit this time, only to have the vendor laugh and say he meant me, because i was "camera crazy." Touche. Finally we end up in an enclave of handmade lamps, all silver and iron, illuminating the alley and giving a bit of peace from the souks. I have never felt more relaxed being completely lost.

DAY 4-8
     Hiking is a slow and contemplative process made slower by my stomachs failing to cooperate with digestion, and slower still for my deciding to "take the road less travelled" and ending up clinging to the side of a mountain, tearing out larger chunks of gravel to have somewhere to stick my feet and crawl up. For the next hike I would stick to the path. Really though, this is a much slower way than i am used to travelling, and entertaining myself as the scenery remains unchanged is at once frustrating and peaceful. I don't know exactly what i anticipated, but there is something missing from these wanderings.
      It is very cold at night...i expected Morocco to have more fires. And more teal.
      I did not, however, expect to be teaching yoga to our tour guide, Yacine, on the rooftop of a humble gite in the Atlas Mountains. Its a story i cannot fit even on a figurative postcard, i can only say it was as nurturing and satisfying as any of the number of tagines we have eaten (and easier to digest).
      On the last day we picked garbage in the village, got scrubbed down in a local Hammam (i could have lied on that fire heated floor for the rest of the rainy day), and had our last round together of "Berber whiskey"--mint tea.

      Now it really begins. Back in the Ville Nouveau of Marrakech, Cind and i set out on our own for the day, and begin really kicking ass at this travelling thing. Not only do we find the cafe we were looking for (at this point, finding anything not at random is a pretty big feet), which is a hip little spot that serves honey and yogurt (very important detail) and is refuge to travellers past abandoned books, but just around the corner is the restaurant we want to hit for dinner the next night, plus a patisserie that to date serves the best gazelle horns, and a french bistro called CHEESEme. The menu is entirely of cheese (tasting plates, warmed cheesy appetizers, tar tines) save for a lime tart with kiwi sorbet--which i wanted to order if only to see such a green dessert. Even the owners sense of humour was cheesy, and the menu cover read "Veni, Vedi, Vi-Cheese"--"i came, i saw, i cheesed". Our first taste of wine in six days. We picked up more at the grocery store on the way home.

DAY 10-12
       For the next four nights, Cind and i are staying in paradise. This riad is such a surprise: each room so detailed thematically or by colour, the orange tree growing in the centre a canopy hung with recycled coffee tin lanterns and the home of a family of tiny birds, the managers Italian leather shoes impossibly shiny. It quickly became a sanctuary. Pictures when i get home.
       Other things that make me smile about Morocco:
               - the toilet paper here.
               - how the dried fruits, especially figs/dates, sometimes taste just like a banana
               - how not only can you get freshly squeezed orange juice for five cents canadian, but banana, apple, grapefruit, pineapple, lemon, pear, or avocado juice too. I also recently discovered you can add orange blossom water to your orange juice--its a whole new, kinda fancy juice.
               - sesame cookies, the size of a quarter, plump and lemony. They are my perfect sweet.
               - Lebanese food in Morocco
               - Being witness to a festival that brings together seemingly every person in the country for a day of gratitude and feasting (despite the smell of burning sheep bones, and piles of hides.) Canadian thanksgiving's got nothing on this one.
               - The populations unanimous love for Bob Marley
               - $3.50 omelette dinners

DAY 13
      Day trip to Essouira where we shopped a much more calm medina full of art galleries with working local artists. For dinner we picked our fish and had it grilled over low coals right there by the sea. Free exfoliation from the sand whipping in the wind at us.
       But a day mostly of farewells: to our Italian oasis and the days of cake for breakfast, to the couple and their two year old whose connection to in the last twenty four hours was kind of unreal, to Marrakech, already familiar, but exhausting and exhausted.

DAY 14
      Fes is home for the next three days, and we have already learned this:
                - we are going to spend the next three days very very lost (we may cave and hire a guide...)
                - we are going to spend the next three days very very wet (i already bought an umbrella; may buy gumboots if we have to wade through the twenty five mm that is supposed to fall tonight--it is currently leaking through the roof that the wind is threatening to rip off entirely).
                - meals are eaten backwards here. A pursuit for b'ssar--butter/fava been and garlic soup--came up with begher-- a semolina crepe i have been searching for for breakfast since we got here. Apparently, the soup is a morning thing to keep you full, the crepes come out at night, with honey, after  you have feasted. I feasted on crepes.
               - indoor activities: cooking classes (hopefully hand rolling couscous or learning to make those incredible sesame cookies) and more regular blog posts so that they are not so disjuncted with past/present tense and more alive with "I just saw/ate this and am way to damn excited to even try to fit it on a little postcard which would take to long to share it with you anyways!" (and less full of made up words like disjuncted).

Ciao from Morocco

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Life, as I have no idea

At 615 this a.m., life as I know it ceased to exist.

I am at the first stop before the very first stop of my next great adventure. One that promises freedom, friendship, oranges, dancing, vino, yoga, and change. Not necessarily in that order (I mean, vino in the fifth spot, c'mon?!).

Ciao for now

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Some people have pets. A dog with a human name, a cat with an oxymoronic name (the quite vicious "snuggles"), fish, birds, the odd ferret, and the worst: hampsters...undeserving of a name (sorry hampster owners/lovers, they are too much like mice for this gal to lend a little love). I, however, have no pets...only pet peeves.

Granted, i am not allowed pets in my little bachelor suite, otherwise i would have a dog of the rather large--and yes, human named,--sort. This is a side note. On with the idea...:

It has recently, and remindedly (not a real word, but you get it?) been noted to me that i have a number of pet peeves. "blah blah blah is one of my greatest pet peeves" is now met with either a smirk, a pronounced monosyllabic laugh, or a far-to-verbal "oh boy another one, lets here it tiffer." This has given me a bit of a complex about sharing what annoys me...though not enough of one to be verbally and poignantly annoyed. So here we go then, a few of my pet peeves:

- pedestrians/cyclist who pedestrian/cycle on the wrong side of the road. On foot: against traffic. On two wheels: with traffic. It is not difficult.
- any abolition of the classic list your ma may have hung in the house your grew up in, usually handpainted on wood canvas: "if you drop it, pick it up; if you open it, close it; if you empty it, fill it back up"...and so on
- people who drive below or directly at the speed limit.

There are more--quite a few actually--but i would like you to still like me at the end of this post.

Speaking of the end of this post, i am not entirely sure where i was going with this. I think i was going to tell you my greatest Greatest pet peeve, but since there are so many to choose from, i hardly recall what i had narrowed it down to...

Sorry about the irrelevancy here.

To tie it all up, I would name my dog of the rather large sorts Walter, or Jeremiah. Or Gnocchi, but that is not a human name at all, which is, again, irrelevant.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

in a pickle...

...or, rather, whats not in a pickle--i forgot the salt. A big ol batch of meyer lemon pickled cauliflower sans sel. Curse words.

Thats really all there is to say about that. The jars are sealed and will stay that way until the day when cauliflower is sadly no longer available locally, i crack some open, and remember about this bit of sparkling wine induced foolishness (i had already canned rainer cherries in GMonk Brut, but only used half the bottle if you follow).

There is more to say, however, about that combination: cauliflower and meyer lemons. Two of my favorite things, it turns out, are madly in love with each other. And when they get a little racy and invite salmon over for dinner...well, its an exciting little menage et trois.

I cannot get enough of this combination, duo or trio, these days, eating it in one way or another for probably, oh, the last eight days. There was an omlette, quinoa salad with almonds, a pile of chickpeas, an addition of wild nettles, plenty of the pickles (salted and not), and just the three, together, for dinner, at my place. Racy.

Now here is where this sexy cauliflower tale becomes a bit long winded/sidetracked--yes, thats right, cauliflower can be sexy, especially with meyer lemon. The salmon is blushing... Anyways, though i may have my Red Seal, though i may be a "chef," i have very little technical skill in the kitchen (i said i was side-tracking). My knife skills simply describe my ability to hold onto a knife while moving it through something--they do not detail speed, accuracy, precision, or efficiency, being able to sharpen this knife, nor simply choosing the correct knife to hold onto for the thing through which i am to move it. Classical preparation is not for me, though the more time i spend at the pans online, the more refined i become (so long as i am not holding a knife...). What i do excel at as a "chef" is not so much a skill as a lucky little gift: my palate. I get flavours, almost intuitively, and i creatively (and, admittedly, sometimes classically) foster dishes that "work;" in other words, meals that combine together for a taste that blows your mind. Thats my contribution to the kitchen, and i am quite proud of it (and content to pass the preparation off to anyone who wants to make my ideas come to life...).
But the flavour combination of salmon with cauliflower and meyer lemon, that blew my mind.

And it has not been blown like that since peas and sage. Oh sweet tender peas with woodsy sage--lovely. Add a little dry salty cheese and potato gnocchi and you have spring comfort in a bowl--which i had at least once a week three springs ago, and a little less often every spring since discovering the idea in the Chez Panisse vegetable cookbook. Alot of the knowledge i have for flavours comes from this source, not just the veggie cookbook (my bible as i like to refer to it), but the rest of the CP collection, and the daily online cafe menu--the very source of my most recent menage et trois obsession (...not that there are less recent menage et trois obsessions...). Salmon with spinach, cauliflower, and meyer lemon relish was all the menu said, but it was enough for me to interpret. And bam, there blew my mind.

I am sorry though, that as i write this to you, meyer lemons are basically impossible to find here. They are in their glory during the late winter/early spring months, when i stock up on the floral citrus fruit, turning it into curd, marmalade, preserved lemons, un-salted pickles, and zesting every last one of them into a little baggie in my freezer. Regular lemons just do not compare. I am down to my last one. It has been zested ( i can work a zester with much more ease than any knife, by the way), and squeezed a little bit to finish tonights rendition: the threesome on a pile of buckwheat couscous. I will miss that last little lemon when it is all squeezed out.

At least though, i have my pickles...with a side of salt.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A little bit too slowed down

In my last (orderly) post, some 29 days ago, i claimed to be slowing my lifestyle down a bit--read:getting more sleep. In "The Princess and the Pea," written some 177 years ago, the princess cannot. These two written works (while one is, admittedly, more well read) are, tonight, inextricably linked. By a pea (or some 177 of them).

Let's start from the beginning, some 18 days ago i developed a rather large and puffy blister from wearing canvas shoes on the farm that inevitably soaked through from rummaging through the hip high, still wet from the overnight sprinklers, weeds in search of, as the case may be, broccoli. I bandaged the heel of my foot and continued on with life, running each morning, working all day/night.i chalked the growing pain in my foot/legs as muscles weary from running and working a bit lopsided to compensate for the right side blister. I drained it twice, quite positive it would heal itself, and my leg would be back to normal. But Wednesday some one Wednesdays ago the pain became incredible. Greater than anything i had ever felt before (and i have lost a front tooth to a ninja spin gone wrong against a coffee table corner, and taken a lawn dart--before they were outlawed--to the head). There were plenty of swears, tears i could no longer hold back while cooking through the hurt, and at the end of the night, an ankle--cankle rather--that was twice the size of its partner, and questionably reddish purple. The next day after work--yes, work, but i skipped the a.m. run...--i went to the walk in clinic where i my foot caused a bit too much of a legitimately fearful reaction from the dr. who sent me to emerg. I spent the next four and half hours there, than two and half the next night, then three and a quarter on Sunday night, when they took the I.V out of my arm and started me on oral meds for the gnarly infection created from the gnarly blister (which, ps, healed quite nicely, and was not, itself, infected, only the tissue around it). Needless to say, i am not currently running at all.
Nor am a yoga-ing, or even farming. I have been physically forced to slow (ohohohohohohohohoh) it down. It is odd, and somewhat welcome. I am able to get alot of things done that would otherwise be saved for days off (laundry being the first to come to mind), and my "rainy day" list has suddenly become my "let your foot heal completely so that you do not re-infect it and have to have it amputated and there in never be able to run again" list. Artsy things get finished, books/articles/magazines get read, friends get called, movies get watched, and peas get shelled.

Ok, so it was one artsy project, about one page of a book, one whole article, and far too many magazines, one friend (and she called me), one movie ("The Vow" so good, so intelligent, so lovely), but alot more than one pea.

Propping my sad little (well, actually, still rather large) foot up some one day into IV treatment, i had quite the cozy night with a movie and a bag each of peas and favas to shell and freeze for winter. It has been a perfect spring for these shellers, rainy and not too hot. I had overflowing grocery bags and colanders of each, yet all shellled and done, there was probably only two cups of each. And to get these four cups total took me the entire movie and then some, calling it a night at two thirty a.m...good thing i am off the five a.m picking until the drugs run out and the blister seals up.

Which brings me to the end of this story, where "the princess and the pea" meets the story of my life: though the bag of peas (and the movie and the foot) provided an opportunity to plunk down and rest, it was the very thing (that and not having done enough during the day to requit myself of my daily energy surplus) that kept me up to the wee hours. I am no more catching up on sleep while out of commission that i am working late then getting up early to work and run.

But at least my ankles are the same size again.

(ps, i do not know why there is this ginormous white space here and to follow...i probably fell asleep on the space key after writing this...sigh)

Friday, June 22, 2012

thank you Coldplay

i was going to title this post with a quote from a song, noting here in my first sentence how silly it was to quote from a song so unknown--it is one thing to quote cohen, quite another to assume anyone who doesnt listen to CBC radio 2 will understand said post title to be a lyric of sorts--that i could not even remember who sang it, what the song was called, or even the tune to which the rest of it goes. Instead i thank Coldplay for a song with an idea at least similar to the one line of some random song that i can no longer remember.

The (coldplay) song i speak of says "slow it down" or, rather "slow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow, it down" (the band is not in pain, those adhering to proper spelling onomatopias are pronounced "oh (my goodness)" not "ow (my goodness i just stubbed my toe"))
Anyways, slow it down. This is my new mantra, the advice i desire to heed, even if impossible considering committments to work/farm and things only just starting to speed up (rapidly) at both.

Summer is officially here, as of two days ago, and with it the ominous mass influx of hungry tourists/growing vegetables. I am actually afraid. Last season was horribly demanding, spending from five a.m. til the bike ride up the hill at 11p.m. going, moving, stopping only for a few minutes to go to the washroom, and about that many minutes to eat something; occasionally remembering to breathe, never getting enough sleep. Between the farm work and the real work, i threw in a bike ride--the only time i was actually sitting. But not this time. I cannot do it again.

I no longer possess this odd, somewhat masochistic desire to run myself completely ragged. I am learning to give some of my time to things that i want to do, not what i am obligated to do (and no, i am not sacrificing any bathroom break time to do so). Like right now, as i stand here writing instead of squatting out there weeding (betcha thought i was still talking bathroom breaks, hey?!). Practicing yoga has taught me alot about balance (beyond standing on my head), and allowed me to be open to it.

And really, i am simply enjoying finally feeling healthy, strong, oriented, present, and...calm (another shout out to yoga here). Though it may be inevitable that i will be tired from the early starts/late finishes to my days, plus my devotion to all things physical, i am done with mental fatigue, with contributing to my own stress. Im ready to slow it down.

Evidence that i already have (besides the creation of this post at the sacrifice of weed strangled cilantro, and that i actually sat down to eat breakfast the last few mornings)? Observe-- a text message from my ma describing our date last thursday:

       "It was a lovely day. So relaxed and easy."

WHAT? My ma described time with me as relaxed and easy? Does she know she wrote that? She must have been into the wine. But its true. The day was relaxed and easy, though just having her write that to me really resonated with how important it is to me, and wonderful it is to be taken that way, to be relaxed.

And when i forget to be during the coming craziness, i will turn on Coldplay and read that message, maybe do a little yoga...or maybe take a little nap.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

the sunny side of rain

i could be making pancakes right now. We have been rained off of the farm, and what could be better than cozying up with a stack, an espresso, and last weekends Globe and Mail (im busy, i can only read a section a day...Wednesday is for the crossword, actually...); its been awhile, and it would be a lovely way to deal with yet another wet, grey, "spring" day, helping to resist the urge to crawl back into bed and sleep until the sun decides to shine again.
instead i am eating the same cereal i have for the last four days, not because my seasonally affected disorder has disabled me from finding joy and putting effort into my breakfasts--i simply, really, wanted more to spend this newfound time writing and cereal is quick, that and its really good cereal, i made it myself.
So that is what i am going to do until heading off to yoga--which, like pancakes, keeps me from being as miserable as the weather. Rain now has come to mean that instead of weeding, i can attend practice, and that--actually wanting the rain to come-- is probably the truest sign to me that im on a different path...
Breakfast, time to write, and yoga: its a pretty sunny day after all

what i will say

Most often, when i have not written here in awhile, i have half written and left unpublished to finish when i have either more time or less wine, more than several posts. Such a habit was the reason for a promise i made a while ago ( it would be dishonest to assure that my end of the bargain--the only end, that is--has been completely upheld; though i finished several posts in a row, there remains a few scattered thoughts from that time...). This habit holds strong: tonight i half wrote a personal record of four posts. Will i get to them anytime soon? Will you get to read them while they still hold relevancy to me? Considering i still have point form almost posts from the first month i started writing here...hmmmm. I apologize for this tendency, this lack of dedication (or rather, dedication to too much wine with too little time--added to too many thoughts and ideas and not enough, actually, dedication), and general absence from what could be a larger part of me.
Lately i have been trying at best to make more time for, well, me. This means getting in my run, my yoga practice, sitting down to eat breakfast, socializing beyond work and half-written-good-intentions-for-communication, sleeping. And writing here is a large part of me, no matter how concealed that large part is.
So please bear with me, lend encouragement, and continue reading--when there is something completed to read, that is). Maybe then there will be four "brand new" fully finished and published posts to read. Until then, at least i finished this one (and it is not for lack of wine...).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

WHOAH--here we go

Last Mothers Day i was sick. That is an understatement: i slept for nine and a half hours after throwing up during dinner service (i was able to run off line, no really awful visual of ruined customer dinners here), only to wake up, wash my face, look at my couch and flop for another three hours. At 2:30 pm i woke for the second time, hardly able to stand, and, at the insistence of my concerned landlord (he is the epitomy of an Italian man, with an insatiable restlessness that is equalled only by his desire to take care of--hence getting me to see a doctor about illness for the first time in about, oh, seven years...) i biked (couldnt stand, but i could sit on my vehicle of choice...) to the walk in clinic, was given a bunch of "could be this"'s plus a box of antacid tablets, biked back home, took said tablets, and made pancakes.

[Yes. Pancakes. I know, i know: enough already with the pancake talk--it seems to be a recurring theme here since realizing their recurrent theme throughout my life, and since recently dubbing all tuesdays off of work as honourary "Shrove Tuesdays" i suggest, dear readers, that you either take this obsession as any other constant topic source like work itself with a skim-reading like immunity, or take advantage of the wealth of breakfast recipes coming your way...]

Then i went to work (where i exercise my own immunity...). I worked through it, just as i had the night before, minus the throwing up. That is how i deal with sickness: I dont. Which is what i am doing this Mothers Day. Round two.

I am stressed. That is an understatement, too. Mother's day weekend to most people with mothers means a special breakfast, perhaps pancakes (could feel that idea coming, hey? just helping to build your immunity to maintain your readership...) at home or out, flowers, homemade cards, and a ma who stays in her bathrobe through all of it--except, maybe, if the pancakes are had "out." To me it is a weekend of greater significance. WHOAH WHOAH WHOAH! i take that back--nothing is of greater significance than my mom--sorry ma, if you are reading.... But for this daughter, it is also the weekend that marks when the farm begins to take over my life.

We time our planting schedule by this weekend, for it is after the full moon after Mothers day that everything in the greenhouse can go safely outside without risk of frost. Dont ask me why, i think logic and science is very much governed by tradition here, i know only that this means that all of a sudden planting is urgent, as is weeding and picking what was more casually planted earlier. Suddenly there is not as much time for pancakes, or sleep really, or running, or biking, or yoga, or writing here, or spending time with friends and family, or spending time with just me and my camera/book/artwork, or working in my personal garden. For the next five months; nothing but work. I know how tired i will be after that last full moon. That reality stresses me.

And is affecting me phyically. i have been sick of the last week or two--sick the way i do sick, which is to ignore, not succumbing to the plugged nose, foggy head, achiness--and worse over, jammed my big toe in yoga so that it swelled and purpled, charlie-horsed my ass somehow, and seriously pulled the intercostal muscles in my upper ribcage so that any movement besides none at all is somewhere between a wee bit and tear inducingly painful. And i am sleeping through my alarms (all six of them including an obnoxious rooster call) daily, despite not yet being without a sound rest. Perhaps my body is stockpiling hours in advance, but really it is just adding to the stress that i wont be capable of the 430am wakeup, and then what?

I know that there is really nothing i can do. That I dont really choose or make a conscious change to go with the season, but that somehow, one day i am just in it. But until then i am sickening myself with stress, and no stack of pancakes can relieve that.

Friday, May 4, 2012

left handed

"Bi-handual." It is a term a coined long ago (junior high, to be exact without an exact date, to describe someone who could spike a volleyball with both hands--yes, the years long ago when i "played" "real" sports [the quotations say enough here...]) and still use today, when i just simply cannot bring to tongue "ambidextrous."
i am trained at bi-handualism (thats right, i am manipulating correct English grammar to encompass my made-up, non-English, somewhat-already-grammatically-correct-if-you-really-think-about-it-and-at-the-very-least-comprehendable-word, further yet) only out of necessity. Meaning, if i need my strong right hand for very important matters such as operating my coffee grinder, my left hand is fully capable of brushing my teeth (note, i set my percolator up the night before; i do not make a habit of minting up my mouth pre-expresso). Or, if i need my right hand to fluidly one-finger type a post such as this, i can continue to eat my dinner with my left hand. This not only spares the keys of my shiny new laptop, it is how i most love to eat asparagus: with my fingers.
Thats right: asparagus! At its most simplest, it is perfect barely cooked, slicked with olive oil and lemon, coarse salt scattered. Sometimes i might add chopped olives, or a grating of sharp cheese preferably goat or sheep, maybe some herbage the likes of parsely/mint/chervil, but i usually like to leave that special veg as unadorned as possible--besides, the more you add to them, the more you may require a fork.

Tonight almost required a fork. I got a little saucy, braising some of last seasons preserved tomatos in wine to coat the spears. But my left hand was still up to the task of one at a time, finger licking asparagus eating. And while i may not be able to write, shape a ball of dough into a bun, or even whisk effectively with my non-dominant hand, im not completely useless on the left. That said, i am more open in the hips on my left side, and get closer to the splits with my left leg forward--just a random bit of a yoga thought to close a random bit of a post.

ps this "bit of" a post took over an hour to write: there is only so much one finger can do, and the tastiness of something green and springy and local but not frozen from last season was so wonderfully preoccuppying (also not really a word, but understandably grammatically correct if it were) that my right hand could not help but join my left in delivering dinner.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

inadvertantly earth day

i did not know today was earth day. And i have been waiting for earth day. It is my second favorite holiday after thanksgiving. Granted, it is not technically a holiday--no time and half pay if you worked today--but it is a cause for celebration, which, by definition, most all other holidays are.
So how does one "celebrate" earth day? Ride your bike to work? Mow the lawn? Climb a tree? Plant a tree? Drink some wine so you can bring the bottles to the recycling depot? All of the above. Like most all other holidays, though, earth day is best celebrated with food.

Despite not knowing how special today was, my dinner fit in quite perfectly. There was first of the season halibut with mushrooms i had dried last season. The mushrooms were rehydrated and cooked with wintered over leeks and new this year spring onions from yesterdays farmers market, and i ate it all with tiny little black lentils, also from the market. Pretty earthy.

Happy belated day, pretty earth.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


This site is in serious danger of changing from a food to a yoga blog...

then again, life is about balance--maybe there is room for both?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

(sometimes) wise words

Oh Rene. I could write a novel on Rene. Actually, more like a comic book--anyone working where i work can attest to that. He is Willi's 30 years running business partner, but could not be more different. Where Willi is quick to over-react/yell/generally increase the volume necessary for everyone else to communicate normally over him, Rene is cool/calm/collected and damn proud to be. He is damn proud to be alot of things: to be a hardcore mountain and road biker and skiier, runner, dog-lover, womanizer,-- i will admit-- good looking 50+ Swiss man (very proud of the Swiss part...). (Note: Willi is none of the above, nor is he particularly audibly--and the man is audible--proud; beautifully humble, actually). In the last four years i have come to love these things, among others, about Rene. I have also been driven completely insane by them.

Come to think of it, Rene (Haudy, as those close to him--re:Willi and i--call him; prounounced "howdy," short for his last name, Haudenschilde) prides himself on driving me--and most other staff members, Willi included--absolutely crazy. Or "hyper" as he puts it. As he puts it everyday. This is my storied point about Rene: his tendency to repetition: his slogans, if you will. Allow me to explain: almost on cue to circumstance Rene will half-thinkingly say the same thing he said yesterday under the same circumstances--and most of the time, those circumstances are Rene being bored, or Rene, being a terrible conversationalist (as opposed to Willi, who is a fabulous storyteller, and, though not always apparent, a voraciously attentive listener), throws in one of his comfortable sayings, rather than actually starting a conversation. I get: "What are you cooking Chef Anderson?" Chef Anderson is ready." "Anderson, dont make me hyper." We all get: "Somebody's gonna get hurt real bad." "So, folks." "You're killing me. Its killing me." "Dont make me hyper."  There are so many more that i could list if i could remember, but to tell you the truth, i have learned to tune them out, to save myself from becoming hyper.

Now dont get me wrong. I love Rene; he has been very generous to me--far beyond giving me a desktop computer and bike rack for my car--a solid person to latch onto when the big guy is being uncontrollably audible, who has stuck up for me in these times, who has helped me (in very few words) understand and deal with attacks. We share a love of biking and dogs (but not so much womanizing...), an unfaltering hardcore passion for somewhat masochistic physical activity--though he will not come to hot power yoga with me--though i am less proud of this than him (more afraid of my own love for it). And some of the things he says not just on a daily, but constant basis, stick with me.

Like his insistence that there is nothing worse than overcooked fish. He reminds me of this everytime we cook, or even plate, a peice of fish together. Or even if i just happen to be there, glance at the fish, get caught glancing and get : "Anderson, there is nothing worse than overcooked fish--its the worst." I couldnt agree more, Haudy.

So as i sit here tonight, eating my horribly overcooked tuna steak (honestly, i might as well have opened a can of solid white packed in water for how dry ass this is...), i think of Rene. Of how maybe what he says so often actually means something. Nonono, that is not true--he repeats alot of meaningless things, intentionally i think. But i am thinking of how lucky i am to have Rene: a sounding board for when i get hyper, am being attacked by the permanently hyper, someone i have more than one thing in common with, who cares about me even if he wont say it, who in the end just wants to help everyone else be as relaxed as him without actually conversing with them for longer than necessary. Who has saved by ass on a number of occasions (and me on his, i might as well be proud of), even if he was here to save my dinner tonight.

Good thing he wasnt, either, because often he just makes me hyper.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

breakfast by, not at, tiffanys

i want to make breakfast. For a living.

Allow me to clarify: under no circumstances do i desire to be a breakfast line cook, working the a.m. rush of over-easy/medium/hard egg, dry/crustless/gluten free toast, extra crispy bacon/extra toast or fruit- instead-of hashbrowns. What i do want to do is make breakfast for people to eat in their own homes where they scramble their eggs as they like, while pouring a bowl of my granola/mueslix, slathering their buttered (or not) toast with my jam; i want to market my own line of breakfast-y things.

I could very well have started to do this two years ago when i worked at the farmers market. Every morning after set up (sometimes desperately--and therefore quite unattractively-- in between serving customers and restocking spinach), i would pull out my rather large mason jar of cereal, more specifically, mueslix. Have you heard of/tried mueslix before? It looks disgusting. Soggy, off-white-ish and congealed, it is oats and shredded apple, soaked traditionally in milk or juice and yogurt, with nuts and dried fruit to jazz it up. I jazzed mine up with chamomile tea for the most part, and, again, a rather large pour of honey. It looked disgusting yes (especially as i hoovervacked from in rather large mouthfuls), but it was filling and energizing, delicious and satiating. And, despite aesthetics--both mine and the mueslix's--not a day went by that someone asked what it was and how to make it, or went so far as to offer to buy it. I should have stopped restocking spinach and started up shop on a corner of the table, but for the most part i just wanted to eat.

It didnt matter that sometimes i was eating that same jar of cereal until noon. I love breakfast  and i cannot go without it. I will sooner have two breakfasts than breakfast and lunch, and am known to travel with either that mornings meal, or prepared for the day to come. It is both my favorite meal to go out for, and to make at home. As if to support my cause, there is always the the classic movie set in my home--ok, so Breakfast at Tiffanys is referring to an infamous jewellery shop in New York and there arent actually any cereal, toast, or even pancakes eaten there but...PANCAKES! i may have mentioned my love of those before. My be-all-end-all comfort food is a soft poached egg. In fact, my dying meal would in some way involve a soft poached egg. And, a bit of a secret, my in-the-works-cookbook is titled after eggs cooked this way. Unfortunately, i cannot really sell soft poached eggs in my envisioned breakfast line. But i can sell disgusting looking mueslix.

Well, it wont look disgusting when i sell it. Mostly because it would be dry. It would magically transform from oaty nutty loveliness to mush in your fridge when you soaked my cereal overnight. And because not everyone is into mush, and because i have recently perfected my granola recipe. Please dont take this as hyperbolic bragging-- because i have been practicing batches of granola almost weekly, i have also been gifting, to quite exaggerated applause so to speak (no one is actually moved to a standing ovation, but wouldnt it be great if cereal could do that for people? i know i feel like giving a big ol woop woop when an egg is perfectly soft poached, but then, i pretty much live for them...). So i feel i am ready to make people pay for this granola--thats right friends, no more freebies!

So thats the idea folks. It is just an idea, that i will probably mention in several posts to come as i begin to obsess over how much i would like my lifes work to be... breakfast.

ps: i thought about posting a picture here of soaked mueslix...but i kinda want your support of my lifes work one day...

ps 2: perhaps i should think about adding a pancake mix to this imagined line of breakfast goods--that would be really taking this seriously...

a little too ironic, dont you think?

i am quite uncomfortable with the irony occuring right at this very moment:

As i stand here writing--working on posts past, still working at that promise...-- at my window sill, snow is blowing outside. Snow.  At 9:27 pm, it is less than 3 hours from April 1st. April. At 9:27 pm, it is also less than three minutes away from the end of "earth hour," the sixy-minute, energy concious time block when people the world over turn off their lights. It is horribly ironic that in this hour of recognition for global warming the very side effects of such are occuring in plain sight. More-so ironic that although i am writing by candelight, i am in fact guzzling energy at my plugged-in-lap-top (novel idea: just unplug the damn thing...done), to write to you about how i hope that you are too in the dark (not about just how much we contribute to climate change and energy abuse, but actually, physically, in the dark...). Adding still, the song streaming from my little HP is a song chorusing "all i need is sunshine."

its all a little too ironic, dont you think?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

vee-OG-NER and other things better drank than said...

drank? drunk?dranken? i dont know. 2 years as an English major studying courses for year 3, even 4, people (who likely had a greater clue about grammar than i did/do) and i have no idea how to speak of something in the past tense of "drink." Sipped--shall we say sipped? ha-like i "sip" wine...!

i should, especially when it is this good. Or perhaps thats why my sips become more like swigs, a drinking term most often reserved for alcohol consumed straight out the bottle--i have yet to resort to that with wine in my own home (note the specifics of terms here: i have drank/drunk/dranken wine from the bottle out of glassless necessity, but not at home where my serving wear of choice is a 250ml mason jar, tall). i should be savoring this particular Viogner (vee-OH-nnay), the 2010 vintage from Church and State Wines. It is redolent of light orange colored stone fruit--think peaches and apricots--with the slightest hint of spice that one should expect from this varietal, and a lovely bit of nuttiness that adds a lovely bit of body to an otherwise pleasantly off-dry wine. It is neither cloying nor oaky, nor particularly citrusy, yet bright and complex the way most "normal" people are (a multitude of interests and emotions, but not so much so to become personally incapable of balancing all these interests and emotions and seeking a second opinion of the self--at the cost of a psychotherapist). I have drank/drunk/dranken enough viognier these days to not only know how to pronounce it (so, great, two years post secondary and i can at least read...), but to expect its nuances, and appreciate them. But not quite enough to sip.

This was but a brief note on wine. Wine is but a brief distraction from what i should be writing about (confessing, in prose, to you and myself) about my great love of my life these days...battling my great fear of it. There is no proper pronunciation for hhhhhhhhhhooooaaaaaawwwhh...w...ww...wwwohhhh, though trying to sound-it-out aloud is just as fun as hearing new-to-wine-folk annunciate Gewurtztraminer (guh-VERTS-tra-mee-ner). Give it a shot, five Church and State Wine's Viognier a shot. Back to my mason jar.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

life is full of new beginnings

"never mind tomorrow is a new day--this, right now, is a new moment"
                                                                                                      - adapted from  a moment with Tina Prichard 

happy first day of spring, everyone

Monday, March 19, 2012

a slight breach in the promise...

this is neither a post about San Francisco or the time spent following, actually 25, in Vancouver. Im not here to elaborate, as promised, on the notes scrawled on scrap paper, detailing fabulous things to eat, or hopefully humorous things to complain about. Sorry, (i know you are disappointed) but i am also not writing now about yoga postures. I am here only to say that i am, as of 8:44 am today, a red seal chef.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

a promise to you and me

I confess, i have been home from a fabulous adventure in San Francisco followed by a birthday in Vancouver for a week now. I have also eaten a good deal of fabulous bread and pastries, written my red seal provincial exam, painted my bathroom "rum raisin" and achieved yogic postures i thought my body incapable of (yes, you just read that. Feel free to start from the top, just to confirm, but i assure you, it says "yogic postures"...hold tight (ha! unintentional pun!)). In sum, i have plenty of writing material left stagnating in point note form in various notebooks and on scraps of paper, with photos to support (except of the yogic postures...). So, a promise: to form some sort of prose from said notes and photos and share them with you here. And with the beauty of the internet, i will be able to post them all on the same night, but dated as if i had written them when intended. I will stretch them yoga style. A promise to you and me. Lets you and me hold me to it.

A sneak peak:

i call this pose: inner peace

Monday, March 12, 2012


lets talk about pancakes...just kidding. As recently discovered, and since emphasized, i not only like, but like to talk about pancakes. Not tonight. Tonight i want to talk about cake. "Pan" free. Just cake.

Not just cake. To me, the epitomy of cakes: toothy with almonds, just sweet, and so moist it is as if squeezing a sponge each bite. Ok, that is disgusting. What a terrible simile. I take it back, no cake should ever be compared to a dirty, porous, cleaning utensil. Lets get back on track...

The cake i am thinking of is so moist it yeilds to a fork, rather than breaking apart, relunctant to a mouthful. It is dense and lovely, holding together yet as tender as a pat of melting butter. And yet it is made of olive oil.

This was my birthday cake, love/from Cindy. An almond polenta cake, the perfect, and i cannot believe so long kept secret, rendition of my cake fascination as of my birthday before this birthday (honestly, i hunted down the ideal piece, trying four different coffee shops versions, one restaurants, and two of my own including one vegan, audition--no, not edition or addition, audition, as each cake was trying out for the cake of my dreams. And all along, Cindy had it.)

I should have known, the gal not only surprises me continually, but seems at large to get me. It is only natural that someone who can literally live with my idiosyncracies, follow suit if not lead in my crazy moments, show compassion and empathy for what is often hidden, more often obviously missing from life, should have the recipe to fill a particular idiosyncratic void. And fill it i did, with several pieces that night, my first at her home for my second birthday spent with her in her home (it feels so good, i think it will be my custom--especially if this cake is involved), and several more over the next couple of days. I had the last piece for breakfast back in my own home, five days later and it was just as moist, crumby, wonderfully nutty and citrusy as the first slice.
But that slice was savoured far longer than five more days ago. And i long for it as i sit at home with a different cake, one from the book cind bought me to go along giftingly, with her gorgeous cake. The book is Moro East, the cake a rosewater tropazini--a Spanish, brioche style cake laden with pine nuts. The book is wonderful, a wealth of moorish meals...the cake is not good. It is dry, dense, and the pinenuts hardly lend themselves as flavour to it. Bland, perhaps at my rushed hands in baking it, though. Certainly not made with the sort of love i imagine Cind baked right into hers.

Which leads me to the real point of this post. I mean, i could go on because i certainly have plenty to say about the cake i am currently forcing myself to eat--how i tried to jazz it up over the last several nights with goat yogurt and honey, or rhubarb jam, or poached apricots from my freezer...unsavable--or past cakes loved and longed to revisit--Heidi Noble's ginger pound cake perfect for spring and befitting my ginger obsession of late; my ma's black magic cake, a beauty i willingly suffer the chocolate migraine for after, the poppyseed almond cake i make as a vessel for lemon curd--or how i love to eat cake after the first glamorous slice of just baked--in three bite slices, standing, right from the cakestand, ungarnished. So that covers that then--talked about cake. But i would also like to talk about the cake baker who inspired this story.

I recently past-posted a...well, post...about Cindy. But i hardly felt like it did her justice. Most unfortunatly, i also included a thought about a dirty, porous sponge in that bit of writing, and like the ill comparison that is to lovely cake, no matter how moist, it is a terrible association to my lovely Cind. All i meant from it was to exemplify how something i once threw in the hesitated to even touch before throwing into the garbage has suddenly become a staple household tool because of Cind. More specifically, because of how i admire her. Here is a girl who does everything she does with integrity; with wonder and strive for excellence; with a dedication that has her waking early, calling it a night in the morning, only to get up and do it all over again. Cindy is inquisitive and understanding, one of many dichotomic descriptions i have for her. She is splendid to me in this balance she hardly realizes she possesses. She is at once driven, tightly wound, demanding of herself, searching, overthinking, while being too relaxed, open, lightened by ideas, cognizant, present. The last is a bit of a hangup of ours, for around the time that we were together for my last birthday, we were both in a bit of a dark place (an understatement, but i dont want to talk about gloom--im trying to spread joy via cake here...), and wandered around through current life together in what we referred to as "bubbles," oblivious to the moment--certainly not in it, the moment, that is. But you know, i think she was, i think she was in her moment of gloom. Cind is far to in tune with her thoughts and emotions, far to contemplative of them to not be. Perhaps no moments were seized, but certainly they were analyzed with a great presence. And you know, i think moments were seized--i think we latched right onto our compatibility. I have never met someone who gets me without analyzing me. We are so similar emotionally, mentally, yet with differences integral enough to learn and grow from and with eachother. There is no one i can be with at the same time as i can be with my thoughts. And i can share these thoughts with her. Nothing has to make sense, because Cindy gets that nothing really does, and sense doesnt matter or have to exist to explain how you feel. The gal is wise. She is beautiful and talented and admirable. She bakes a perfect cake.

I will ask if i can share it with you...(wow, that is like the worst ending to a story about a cake, the recipe suspended mid air like whether the hero of an action story lives or dies, if the couple in a romance live happily ever after or worse...sorry). For now, a picture:

Friday, March 2, 2012


When i lived in Halifax, the "boys" (three of them) that i lived with had this dishwashing thing, this sponge-on-a-stick of which the handle is filled with soap so as to eliminate the need for an actual sink of soapy suds: just give your dirty bowl a little rub with the stick sponge and wa-la, dishes are done. They were quite proud of themselves--i was quite disgusted. They were not to thrilled when i threw it out...

I didnt see one of these again until i stayed with my Cindy on the opposite coast, nearly four years later. This gal, who i admired, admire/appreciate/love/can-no-longer-imagine-my-life-without had one of those repulsive soap dispensing sponges. For some reason though, in her home, it wasnt.

Thats how quickly, unthinkingly, things change for me with Cindy, "Cind" as i like to call her. In our short, and even shorter recurring time together, we have managed to slip into place with eachother, as if always belonging there. I cannot begin to describe how aweing our friendship is to me, how willingly i let someone in, how natural it was to do so, how easy it was to let go of the sponge being a festering pocket of germs and rather a brilliant water-saving, convenient tool (i have been using one myself since living with her--if the "boys" could see me now...).

I can however, describe (a bit) Cind. Except for her voluminous hair (one of our many commonalities) she is tiny. Except for her hair, and personality, actually. This is a woman both intelligent and constantly inquisitive. She is particular yet relaxed, unfocused on her need for perfectionism. Entirely full of energy while seemingly reserved. A spaz. An intellect. Type A. Better at sitting than me. Driven. Concerned. Hopeful. Realistic. Ponderous. Part of. Watching.Precise if not exact. Cautionary at one thing while throwing caution to the wind with the next. A reader, a writerm a music lover. Interesting. Interested.  We are both similar and complimentary.

With one great difference. Although we are both quite particular about certain things, we respond differently. How to explain? Cind has these ideas in her head about the way things should be. Take for example, pizza: the crust should be thin, slightly charred, not heavily topped, but softened enough by toppings to droop at the center, foldably, as you pick up a slice. And so she seeks this perfection from pizzeria to pizzeria...while i seek to create it at home.

And this is another thing i love/envy/hope-to-learn-from Cind: how to appreciate something you have found/desire to find at the hands of others. Although she still has ideas of how things should be--authentic, befitting, quintessential--she is far less of a control freak about it than i am. Far more willing to take risks for the satisfaction of finding what is right at the mercy of someone elses interpretation. I would love to have this inhibitionless curiousty. Perhaps i will adopt this trait like i have adopted sponges-on-sticks when we travel together this fall.

Cind and i are going to Morrocco/Spain/Portugal together this fall. Originally i was going solo, presently i am far to excited to share this experience with her that i am incapable of imagining it without her. To be a part of her quest for world dumplings.

Yes, dumplings. Think donuts, perogys, gnocchi, fritters--any doughy bit of business cooked in aromatic stock or oil. Like rice pudding, a part of most all cultures. And like cereal to me: Cindys passion.

She is seeking to learn on this trip the art of preparing/making/eating, the significance of a particular dumpling in a particular culture. Actually, i dont know what she is seeking. I know only that it is so beautiful to be fueled by something. And that in the same way she conquered first a half, then full marathon, riding a bicycle, learning to rock climb (we did the latter two together, by firsts among many, sojourns into Cindys quest-like interests, she will learn the art of dumplings and find refuge, perhaps, in doing so. In a way perhaps similar to the way that i found, and continue to find, refuge in her--through curiousity and trust. I know this trip is huge for her; i know it will be huger for me than i expected it to. I know how lucky i am to be travelling with her--not just overseas.

...hmmm, i wonder what the cereal culture is like in Morocco...?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

a tale of two cities

So there was more to San Francisco than one momentous dinner--there was also Tartine.

I am half-kidding here. The truth, the full truth, is that i love Tartine. And San Francisco. And that Tartine is in San Francisco, so that if i ever moved to the city i love, i could go to the bakery i love--every day; kinda like we did when we were there.

My family will tell you i "dragged" them there each of the four days that we were in San Francisco; made them stand in that never-ending line out the door to hope for a seat in the fittingly small, fittingly energized, cafe. What they may not tell you is how wonderful it was each time. Just ask them about the bread pudding the next time they complain about my obsession; just ask them about the bread.

Oh that bread--the reason i went. i learned to make Chad's bread (we are on a first name basis as i talked to him while there--albeit in nervous rapidity; he doesnt know my name, but that is besides the point) the new years i was in Vancouver. Thats right, i rang in the new year not with champagne and good-fortune kiss, but a surprisingly risen, tangy, big-hole-laced-bread-of-my-dreams. His book went from being a source of lusty bread photos to a bible of sorts, the way i was devoted to his words and ideas.[note: if you have not seen this book, i suggest you track it down. You will think of bread in a whole new way--the way you should think of bread.]. And then i tasted his--the bread i was striving for in my little humble oven--and i was re-awed. My intense love of this place intensified. The loaves were enormous, with a not-too-thick but shockingly crisp crust, texturally perfect with an obvious chew, the sourdough flavour a pleasant surprise, and the holes as large as i long for them to be in my own loaves, lightening the slices to a stunning crumb. The sesame loaf, beyond this, was riddled with seeds and intense in such flavour, not an afterthought, but the sheer purpose of taste of this rendition of his basic country. Just ask those "complainers," though they may have been in greater awe of the sweets; the lemon square, my first Tartine love from the first Tartine book was a layer of thick, vibrant, zingy lemon curd that i have not been able to find or even conjure since Halifax (where i had a slice, and i mean a big ol slice, of double lemon flan at least three times a week in fear that i may die before having another...). And i discovered their walnut cookies, a sable with a surprising, and most welcome hint of cinnamon. Like "why hello cinnamon, how nice of you to join me and my walnut cookie." Yes, cookies so good you want to talk to them. So you do, in private, because Chad already thinks your crazy for how you poured a wee bit of your heart out to him without giving your first name in exchange, and you dont want to give him reason to ban you from the place you hope to visit everyday when you move to San Francisco.

That is: if i were actually moving to San Francisco. I wish i were.The city felt so much like home in those four days, that it seems only natural that i do. Really, it was so natural being there. I knew where i was going the whole time. Me. I dont even know what direction North is from where i am standing, in my own home, right now. Yet there i knew where we were in respects to where we needed to go, and where we had been. I made friends with strangers. I reunited with a beautiful friend. We went to a farmers market full of priceless produce (literally, a kind vendor gave me a sprig out of a large rosemary bundle just for that nights dinner). We bought more groceries at a store that is the epitomy of what grocery stores should be, finding it by chance of ranunculus. Just being in Bi-Rite made me feel a part of the community there (so much so that i could dedicate another entire, lengthy paragraph to it, but i will spare you this time). I would have held on to that feeling for anything, cozied down, said so long to the tacky tourist bits of the trip we did--and to my return ticket.

To home i had to go though, but not without a trip to Vancouver to see Cindy and celebrate my actual birthday first. And that lovely gal made me the most lovely cake. Between eating and dancing, coffee shop hopping (with Cind, then Adam, then Torr, and some solo...alot of espresso... Note: nelson the seagull wins hands down), donut testing, and shopping, i found i was less celebrating 25 and more celebrating the gal that means so much to me. I am so lucky to have this person it feels as if i have had all of those years, when really it was been a few months past one. I cannot describe my relationship with Cindy the way i can a loaf of bread--just know that i am as in love with it was that, that it brings me as much wonder and, more.

I leave for home-home soon, where there likely wont be nearly as much bread and pastry; where there isnt Dolores park to while away the day at, the Golden Gate bridge to bike over (yay ma!), a windy beach to run across, turretted homes to possibly call home, or a person so much of me as a person. Just me, a lot more enriched from the (two-really) trip (s), as satisfied as filled with dreams. Waiting to write more tales.

(ps, i realize what i wrote here was less about the trip and more about, well, bread. But bread is life, and this is my lifes stories. Perhaps it would be more sensible if you had a bowl of that bread pudding... no really, i had intended on describing both visits in detail...but, well, i love Tartine. It fits into my life almost as well as Cindy)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

a moment of grand proportion

When i started this whole cooking "thing," i said, perhaps at first off-handedly, that when i turned twenty five, i would eat at Chez Panisse-- the restaurant that once inspired and continues to give me "my place in it all;" in this "thing" i call my life. And though the first time i suggested this it was just that, a suggestion, i said it again. And again. And a couple of more times until i believed it. And then, when i realized my next birthday would be the very twenty fifth of which this whole (other) "thing" evolved, i neither wanted to be someone who says something (often) and does not follow through, and joyed at the excuse to finally eat at the restaurant that, still, gives me my place in it all.

My relationship with Chez Panisse coincided with my insistance that i eat there one day-- on February 28. 2012, no doubt--more specifically, with a recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables. Page 276: Delicata Squash, and Celery Root Puree. I did not make this for dinner that night. I did, however,spend the next hour plus skimming through the book in the office of the restaurant i was working at, until finally running, late, to the other restaurant i was working at. It wasnt so much about the recipe, as the combination of flavours throughout the book: beet greens and mint in a pasta, cauliflower and walnuts, all the possibilities of summer squash (which i had never heard zuchinni referred to as before...), and peas and sage. Oh! Peas and sage. When my copy of the book finally arrived from Amazon, i made gnocchi with peas and sage. And then i did so (now i do so?) every spring. Every saturday night that particular spring, actually, after my one late night at the Grapevine (back when there was only one late night...). So began the obsession with a restaurant that could serve vegetables such brilliant justice, that treated them not simply as a side dish to be boiled, buttered, and seconded to meat, but accentuated their flavours on their own. Celebrated them seasonally, and taught me to do so. I was infatuated, and soon discovered their website, where i could admire and continually be inspired by the composition of the daily cafe menu postings--a nightly ritual to this day. I read and re-read (thats read on the latter, as an active verb, not an annuciation of past occurance...) the biography of the restaurant started by not a chef, but a group of people longing to something beautiful and natural in food. I have expanded my cookbook collection to include Chez Panisse Desserts, Cafe, Cooking, and Pizza/Pasta/Calzone, as well as their half-of-the-year chef David Tanis' cookbooks, and their 40 year anniversary--stunning--hardcover. I have given copies of these books to people i love. I wrote a resume (complete with a detailed, q and a fictional interview between founder--to say the least-- Alice Waters and i) for a project in my final trimester of in-class training. I finally used that first inspiring recipe in a competition prep black box at work, rendering the combination of roots in a pomme anna style pancake. I finally ate at the restaurant that, without exaggeration, i can say is a part of my everyday since the original snoop through Vegetables four years ago ( I owe Mark a "thank-you").

The last four years prior to this dinner were, as i said, obsessive. Would it be then, one of those moments so hyped up with trepidation that i write now devastated by disappointment?


No--not even close.

The opposite, in fact.

What is the opposite? I was asked so many times not "how was Sanfrancisco?" but "how was Chez Panisse" (their is a collective understanding of my love for this restaurant). To which i respond with a stutter, before beginning to describe the food (just wait...), not knowing, really, where to begin. Or what it really was. I have now found the word.

That word is "momentous." Ok, even if i could actually hear you, i know i would not be hearing any sort of oohs or ahhs. It is not exactly a word that one would need to consult a thesauraus to understand. It is simple, at best. But simple, at its best, is quite grand. Think about it: something that is not just big, is huge. Larger still: humoungous. So this was not just a moment, it was momentous: a humoungous, ginormous, grandious, moment.

The meal was simple as simple is at its best. Which is grand. My obliging ma, aunt, and cousin (thank yous due here, too) let me order for the table (i thank you again). I could begin now, to describe in detail each dish, the delicate asparagus perfectly slicked with oil and crimson citrus, the puntarelle salad, crisp and rich with soft boiled egg and anchovy vinaegrette, the salami, fennel and arugula pizzetta that was so fresh it ate like a salad, the layers of paper thin spinach pasta encapsulating meaty, buttery, chantrelle mushroom ragu, the seafood stew with a broth meerly accented by tomatos, showcasing plump clams and just cooked white fish, the saffron shining through as a pleasant surprise, or the polenta that tasted like fresh corn on the cob that was grilled, and ground just for us. I could lust over the meyer lemon sorbet and plum blossom icecream pyramid surprisingly ordered for the occasion, or the meltingly perfect hazelnut financiers JoJo and I were treated with after exploring the downstairs kitchen. Sure i could begin to get into all of that. I could share pictures, but mine were regretfully awful. If i could not share the whole meal with you, i would have loved, would still love, to share only the smells. Because what i remember most was that each dish, as it was placed in front of us, was so frangrant, movingly fragrant. Fall back in your seat fragrant. The fennel pungently licorice, like the scent of the glass after a shot of sambuca, the seafood broth a perfect and inoffensive blend with zesty tomato, and that corn--i mean polenta. All so simply prepared, yet so...momentous.

My "place in it all," this "thing" i do, has purpose. It is inspired. Again.

A last thank you, to Chez Panisse, for all of the moments before, and to come after, the momentous.